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President Uhuru attacks Judiciary on BBI ruling

By Mercy Mwai
Wednesday, June 2nd, 2021 00:00 | 6 mins read
President Uhuru Kenyatta and First Lady Margaret Kenyatta appreciate a performance by a dance group at the Jomo Kenyatta International Stadium in Mamboleo, Kisumu during Madaraka Day celebrations yesterday. Photo/PSCU

President Uhuru Kenyatta used yesterday’s Madaraka Day celebrations in Kisumu to express his outrage at the Judiciary following the recent High Court ruling declaring the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) illegal and unconstitutional. 

Uhuru, who devoted a chunk of his speech to question the High Court decision, took the opportunity to drum up support for BBI, saying it was meant to end ethnic dominance by two tribes.

A five-judge High Court Bench on May 13 not only declared the BBI “null and void,” but also faulted the President’s involvement, saying he had violated the Constitution.

Yesterday, Uhuru said the Judiciary should have taken note of the fact that Kenya is a democratic State where citizens should have been allowed to make a decision on the initiative at the ballot.

Addressing an ecstatic crowd at the newly-constructed Jomo Kenyatta International Stadium attended by Chief Justice Martha Koome, the President accused independent institutions of “stretching our democratic boundaries beyond limit and bent the will of the people”.

“From nullification of a presidential election in 2017 to an attempt to stop the will of the people as expressed through BBI, the Judiciary has tested our constitutional limits,” he said.

“While I stand by the rule of law and I will always obey the decisions of the courts, I am also compelled by my position to heed the sovereign and supreme voice of the People of Kenya.

That is why our national conversation today must focus on the consequences of choice.” 

Rousing welcome 

He added: “The Judiciary would also have asked itself another question; can Kenya truly be a democracy if the people are denied the opportunity to express the sovereign and supreme choice at the ballot box, on the basis of elevating technicalities over the overriding objectives of law?” 

Burundi President Évariste Ndayishimiye was the chief guest at the event that was attended by Deputy President William Ruto, opposition leader Raila Odinga, South Africa Housing minister Lindiwe Sisulu, Speakers Justin Muturi (National Assembly) and Ken Lusaka (Senate), and host Governor Anyang’ Nyong’o.

Kisumu residents gave Uhuru and his entourage a rousing welcome as he made his way into the new stadium where he inspected a guard of honour mounted by the Kenya Defences Forces. 

At the arena, a set of skillful entertainment performed by local artists and traditional dancers ushered guests into the event before key leaders gave their speeches.

Among the artistes and performers who thrilled the event attendees are famous Susana Owiyo, Osito Kale, Wuod Fibi and Kochia dancers.

A guard of honour by Kenya Defence Forces at yesterday’s Madaraka Day celebrations in Kisumu. Photo/PSCU

Local fashion stole the show at the celebrations with a number of leaders including Ruto, Raila, Nyong’o and Wiper leader Kalonzo Musyoka donning multi-coloured kitenge shirts.

 A cheering crowd at the city’s Kondele hotbed attempted to stop the President’s motorcade but was dispersed by the police.

Earlier, Ruto, who was invited to address the crowd by Nyong’o and also invited Uhuru to speak, asked leaders to build a nation anchored “not on personalities but on the rule of law and constitutionalism”.

The Deputy President, who has expressed reservations about the BBI, was among key national leaders who celebrated the court ruling declaring the law amendment project unconstitutional.

And while his boss appeared to fault the Judiciary, Ruto had earlier said the country requires “a robust legislature, a performing executive, an independent judiciary and other independent institutions”.

“It would be an act of great betrayal if we allowed ethnic bigotry and personality cults to destroy the firm foundation of constitutionalism and the rule of law in our nation,” he said.

Raila, who was invited to speak by Uhuru, traced the country’s independence history and defended his Handshake with the President, saying its aspirations will be achieved through BBI.

“BBI is necessarily as it had brought Kenyans together. Right now what we want is a new direction to unite Kenyans to be one because without that we cannot have development and that is the true meaning of the Handshake,” Raila told a cheering crowd.

Governor Nyong’o who welcomed visitors to the county, said the idea of having such celebrations hosted outside Nairobi was a brilliant idea as it gives counties an opportunity to showcase their investment opportunities. 

The governor commended the Uhuru administration for initiating several projects in the region and supporting devolution, saying he had “built for the future”.

Kisumu joined Nakuru, Nyeri, Machakos, Meru, Kakamega, Narok, Mombasa and Kisii counties which had hosted national celebrations.

Uhuru, who had earlier congratulated Justice Koome for her appointment as  the country’s first woman CJ, accused the Judiciary of making decisions that forced the government to shelve its development programmes because of lack of money.

According to the President, judges should be guided more by the spirit rather than the letter of the law.

According to the Head of State, nullification of the presidential election in 2017 saw the country lose Sh1 trillion in 123 days which translates to Sh1 billion every working hour for the period.

“If we are in a constitutional moment, is a decision against the BBI a decision in support of the status quo? If BBI were to be stopped, who carries the burden of choice?

On whose shoulders will ethnic majoritarianism of two communities rest? And who will carry the burden of losing 30 per cent of our national budget every five years due to the toxic politics that BBI seeks to resolve,?” he posed

The President’s attacks on the Judiciary came hours before the Court of Appeal holds a case management conference on four appeals, which are challenging the nullification of the BBI.

Court of Appeal Registrar has indicated that the conference will be presided over by a three-judge Bench where all parties involved in the cases are expected to discuss how the case will be prosecuted.

During the conference,  the parties are expected to settle some of the issues in the appeal cases before the matters proceed to hearing while the judges would be expected to determine the viability of hearing the substantive appeals, the length of the submissions to be filed, the amount of time required for the parties to prepare and exchange submissions and the logistical issues relating to the hearing of the appeals.

Uhuru, Raila, the BBI Secretariat and the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) have filed separate appeals challenging the verdict that rendered the constitutional amendment process under BBI “unconstitutional, null and void”.

Yesterday, Uhuru said the push for the BBI dream is meant to send more resources to counties to catalyse development and that is why they had proposed to send 35 per cent of the national revenue to devolved units.

“Politicians are obsessed with personal gain; but our national pain disturbs leaders.

This is why I want to thank the Right Honourable Raila Odinga for embracing our national pain over his personal gain, when we did the Handshake. What is more: he did this without asking anything from me; I thank him,” he added.

Uhuru used the occasion to highlight, some of the Jubilee’s administration key gains. In eight years, he said his administration had doubled what the colonizers and the first three administrations did in 128 years as the  annual worth as a country is now at  Sh10.3 Trillion.

Title deeds

At the county level, he said they have allocated Sh2.3 trillion to counties which is an equivalent to about 16 per cent of the current Gross Domestic Product which means that they have  sent to the counties the equivalent of what our national cake was between 1885 when the colonisers came to Kenya and when President Moi retired in 2002.  

At the individual level, he said the economic acceleration initiative has focused on the allocation of title deeds where his Administration has issued 5.1 million title deeds in 7-years only compared to the previous administrations which issued 6 million title deeds in 50 years.

“Economic acceleration, in my administration, is about increasing the speed of achieving our national goals. 

We have increased this speed at the national, county, and individual levels. My administration has embraced the maxim of economic acceleration,” he said.

On the contribution the founding fathers made to the country, Uhuru recalled their contribution  based on the  national motto of “Harambee”, which he said even though was an import from India,  it was introduced as a political rallying-call in Kisumu city during the 1950s which after independence, the Founding Fathers popularised it as the national mantra of “Pulling Together”. 

The motto, he said, was used by the founding fathers led by Jaramogi Oginga Odinga in Kisumu which was the epicenter of the push to release Mzee Jomo Kenyatta and the “Kapenguria Six” from their illegal detention by the colonizers.

“As we celebrate self-rule today, we must also honour our Founding Fathers who dared to imagine Kenya - the bold and selfless architects of this great Republic. 

And from this region of Luo Nyanza, we honour among others, Jaramogi Oginga Odinga, who led the campaign for the release of Jomo Kenyatta and the “Kapenguria Six”; Tom Joseph Mboya who was the architect of our Economic Blue Print at independence and  Achieng Oneko who was one of the “Kapenguria Six”,” he added.

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